By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood March 5, 2014 at 1:27PM
A year ago, the Barnes Brothers attempted to shoot a documentary about the lives of Todd Snider, Elizabeth Cook and other touring songwriters residing in the burgeoning East Nashville neighborhood. Well, they failed. Drugs and booze took over. What they ended up with is the comedy "East Nashville Tonight." Earlier this year the film premiered to sold out audiences at the 2013 Nashville Film Festival and will officially debut on November 18 at a one-night only Nashville screening and concert with all-star group Elmo Buzz and the Eastside Bulldogs, featuring Snider and Cook.
And BOND360 released the film exclusively to fans on November 19 via the film's website. This was a small-scale pilot test, as Schiller experiments with bypassing the usual big retail outlets to see what can be done by marketing films directly to fans. Why go searching around through google and multiple clicks to find a movie you can stream, when you can go directly to the film's website and get it there? Why not preorder a film as soon as you hear about it, and agree to pay more for bonus content if you want it? Fans are coming to store that looks like a website. WHich means "the analytics are huge," says Schiller. "It's a goldmine, making my data smarter as a market publicist and distributor. I know how many people bought 'East Nashville Tonight' from reading the article on The Playlist website, whether or not the PR was good for awareness, and which PR hit made the most revenue for the filmmaker," Schiller says. "Not only will this be the future, but it has to be the future."
On films like "Exit Through the Gift Shop" and "Senna," he says, "what we do as marketers is create a community around the film which doesn't walk away when it is no longer in theaters. It's still there. They want to stay with your journey throughout the entire life of that film. They grow organically when people see films on Netflix and iTunes. But the marketing and attention to the film ends a few weeks into the digital release. Nobody is marketing a film a year after it's available on iTunes. Look at 'Exit Through the Gift Shop,' as Banksy is working in New York and grabbing media attention, the community still exists around Banksy, it's only gotten bigger over time. You need to connect back the films into those organic spikes of interest, have a structure acting as a brand manager, to live with a film for years, not as a film in a catalogue. How can you create new revenues for a film every month?"
If filmmakers keep their rights and start websites for their films, they can also create easily searchable hubs for their entire library of work. The old studio DVD model--anniversary packages etc-- can be endlessly updated by the filmmaker with fresh bonus features to revitalize long tail archival content, says Schiller. (Navigating the rights is tricky, of course.) Why not add new Formula 1 material to "Senna" packages every year?
"Particle Fever" and "East Nashville Tonight" provide Schiller with "a wonderful opportunity to start to learn what works and doesn't work," he says, "and also understand how to maximize the relationship we have with fans and audiences to grow the business."
See both trailers below.